I’m reading a book about high school.
This book references a high school television drama multiple times within the first 30%. (I have a Kindle. Sorry I don’t know how many pages.)
This would be fine with me, if this book didn’t also follow the storyline of the only episode of this particular television drama I ever watched. I’ve heard great things about later seasons of this show. I’ve even seen some of the actors speak about their personal experiences. However, this one episode was ridiculous.
If kids behaved like that where I went to school, and also where I taught, we would have removed all vending machines and they wouldn’t be allowed to bring any beverages from outside. The janitor would have patrolled the halls with the teachers and would have stopped those shenanigans. One thing I know about school – never mess with the janitors. They are the teachers’ best friends, they have the principal’s ear, and what they lack in pay they make up by complaining to the rest of the staff about problem behaviors. No janitor wants to clean up messes, and it doesn’t fucking matter who made the mess, popular kid or no.
Okay, so by now you know the television show, and the one episode I watched. If you’ve read the book I’m reading, you may even know what I mean about the book. I’m not here to criticize the book, or the show. What I want to talk about is meta-writing.
I once posed the following question to Facebook: “What if I write a National Novel Writing Month novel about a WriMo?” (what we writers during National Novel Writing Month call ourselves). One of my writer friends responded, “That’s meta.”
By definition, meta means, “(of a creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.”
In my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, I think this young adult novel, which has referenced this television show several times while also borrowing heavily from one of its romance storylines, is meta.
Is this type of meta writing in poor taste? Do other readers feel misled, as I do, only 30% in? I have no idea how well this novel sold, and I haven’t read any reviews. I bought the book 1) to support an indie author and 2) to read more YA Romance before I finalize the outline for Love Your Enemy. I wasn’t looking for award-winning, but I was looking for original.
Is meta ever okay? Can it be done well? I mean, I still really want to write that NaNoWriMo story. (The main character is not only writing his own novel, he’s also a high school teacher encouraging his creative writing class to win NaNoWriMo for extra credit. The possibilities are endless!)
Please share your thoughts, either in the comments or on Facebook. I’ve seen both sides of meta now. I completely understand if you feel it will always disappoint the reader. I will also understand if you think it can be done well.